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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Well now THIS makes sense

Kill her and THEN prove your point.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:20 AM [+]
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14 comments

Monday, March 28, 2005

God knit me together in my mother's womb...

And therefore my violent tendencies are just a reflection of who God made me to be.

Story HERE.

So my question is this: When is the ECUSA going to put together a rite for the blessing of violent acts?

As someone generally familiar with genetics, I often cited this sort of study (of which there are actually many) to my pro Same Sex Union friends in the ECUSA as I was on my way out. (of the church, not the closet!). It is a fair question because the most common argument offered for the blessing of SSU's revolved around the idea that God made people the way they are and so it is "natural." Tough words for the deformed and mentally handicapped I would imagine, and now an easy "out" for those who struggle with issues of temper and violent behavior.

Unfortunately (or not), it just ain't that simple.

The Orthodox Church in her hymnology and her theological treatises often uses the term corruption to describe the human condition under the burden of sin. A brief look at some definitions available for that term was quite telling for me:

1. To taint; contaminate.
2. To change the original form.
3. Containing errors or alterations


Now those last two are particularly intriguing in regards to the "naturalness" of violent behavior or homosexuality for that matter. If you know a thing or two about genetics, then you likely know that even a single "point mutation" (i.e. Your DNA sequence of varying base pairs A,T,G, or C has the wrong base pair in the wrong spot) can be devastating if that mutation is in just the right region.

Proponents of homosexuality are working hard to prove that there is a genetic basis for such an inclination, and while they have no conclusive evidence for it yet I have little doubt that homosexuality does indeed proceed in part from a genetic predisposition. Nor do I doubt the possible validity of the study findings regarding violence and finger-length/testosterone exposure. But the bigger question is: so what?

Genetic defects happen all the time. Each and everytime you are exposed to sunlight you are being bombarded by UV light that is playing havoc with your DNA. Luckily you have enzymes (called "polymerase") in your cells whose job it is to fix these errors, but if a defect is in the right place and the cell divides before it can be fixed, the daughter cell will never recognize it as an error and you have the beginnings of Melanoma: skin cancer. At this juncture, the defect is apart of your body and thus cannot, without swift external medical assistance, do anything to stop it from killing you.

Defects happen in the womb too and sometimes even before the womb in the egg or sperm during its division process long before (biologically speaking) their union. Birth "defects" are horrible and no amount of politically correct language is going to make someone unable to walk feel more "normal." Perhaps the language of the Church could do better in this regard by reminding us that none of us (save a Holy few) are "normal"? In the end I don't think any of us should feel "normal" about our lack of normalcy.

But why should some be "predestined" in the womb with more difficult struggles than others? I suppose I would ask the same of everyday life in which we see the that lesson given to us loudly and clearly outside the womb. Why should a sunlight created base pair mismatch end in melanoma for me, and not for you? Life isn't fair. Didn't our mother's teach us that?

But thanks be to God, the Lover of Mankind, that despite whatever struggles we face, genetic or otherwise, we can work with hope for God's coming restoration and an ending to our state of corruption. The scientist in me wants to hear heaven described as a place (or state of being) where there are no more base pair mutations or deletions, and polymerase will always proofread and copy perfectly.

An end to corruption.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:18 PM [+]
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1 comments

That's not my Truck!


But it is my priest and my son.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:32 PM [+]
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1 comments

Bestsellers

You've likely heard the news that the #2 bestselling book in Turkey is none other than "Mein Kampf." But what you may not have heard is that the #1 bestseller in Turkey is called "Metal Storm," and tells of a fictional U.S. invasion of the country and a Turkish hero who wipes out Washington with a nuclear device.

The Turkish government is trying to play down the "Soaring Sales" of Hitler's Anti-semitic book even to the point of denying reality (which of course is rather typical of Turkey...ask any Armenian or Greek): "We have never had such an attitude [racism] in our culture, nor in our history, and we do not have it now..." says a government spokesperson.

Turkey has made it a point to officially deny the "Armenian" Genocide of the late 19th and early 20th centuries despite an absurd amount of evidence to the contrary. (Of course it wasn't just Armenians, but Greeks and Syrian "Nestorians" as well.) Their denials has even gone so far as to apply pressure on Microsoft to change some entries in their "Encarta" encyclopedia...alas Turkey failed.

I'd like to see a small sliver of Turkey's history held to the same standard that many of us hold our own country's history here in America. Turkish denials of the past would be comparatively understood if the US were to deny that europeans stole land from Native Americans here, or if the government were to deny that the "Trail of Tears" happened. Remember, the people of Asia Minor used to be a majority Christian population and the symbolic head of Eastern Christian Church, the Patriarch of Constantinople now resides in "Istanbul" and heads a local flock that likely does not outnumber the Orthodox Christians in Nebraska.


And so the Turks are reading Hitler's book...but curiously enough, Adolf himself did not deny the genocide:

I have given orders to my Death Units to exterminate without mercy or pity, men, women, and children belonging to the Polish speaking race. It is only in this manner we can acquire the vital territory which we need. After all, who remembers the extermination of the Armenians? - Adolf Hitler, 22 August 1939

The Orthodox Church has offered up far more martyrs in the last 150 years than it has in the previous 1850 or so years. Details HERE.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:37 AM [+]
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0 comments

Friday, March 25, 2005

Our Children

One of mine broke her arm on sunday night and then beginning yesterday morning succumbed to a nasty stomach ailment which has had her bed-ridden. A rough week for her, no doubt...poor kid.

But I am more concerned about all of my kids and their future in this world. I often find myself weaving back anf forth between my old "new Christian" optimism (i.e. "We're gonna change the world for Christ!") and my much less confident "crusty old man" pessimism (i.e. "This world is screwed and it's time we hunker down and hope the sin 'fallout' doesn't kill us all.")

While Charissa has had a rough week, I fear that they all will have a rough life and I wonder about the extent that Terri Shaivo's case is indicative of this. I was sent this article and it gave me pause to think about what all of this is saying to our kids.


Thankfully, my kids are too young (I hope) to really have much of this rub off on them. But once you remove all of the political baggage being spewed that has so disgusted me, I am left in complete agreement with this writer who says:

They [our kids] are seeing a society--their society, their people--on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life.They are seeing a society--their society, their people--on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life.

Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.

Much of what of what disturbs me about the politics and the unending attempts to defame the holders of opposing opinions (even apparently by one of our hierarchs!!!), is that we miss the most important point: What are we teaching our kids about life?

I mean really, who the heck cares about motives of politicians or of Michael Shaivo or of the Schindlers?

How can I explain to an 8 year old why we are starving a woman?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:44 AM [+]
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4 comments

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cannot be condoned

A few comments ago I asked if anyone had heard if the Orthodox Church had made any sort of stand on Terri Shaivo's case. Well here the OCA speaks. I cannot find anything from the Antiochian or Greek Archdiocese.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:53 PM [+]
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6 comments

Religion and Science

How odd it would be for me to be working in my lab with funds given to me from the Roman Catholic Church. But it apparently could (and does happen).

Australia Scientists Grow Adult Stem Cells from Nose


I would have never guessed that the Roman Catholic Church ever even considered sponsoring scientific research. But why not? Believe me, plenty of groups with overt agendas do so all the time.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:34 AM [+]
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0 comments

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Correspondingly, the bizzare benefits of working in Infectious Diseases

Here is a display of "freebies" you can get by order a certain amount from this lab supply company.


I mean who wouldn't want to cuddle up to plush ebola virus? or Flesh Eating Bacteria (note the knife and fork)? There's something sick and wrong about this. But such is the bizzare world of lab science.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:30 PM [+]
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2 comments

The "benefits" of working at a Cancer Research facility

Nothing wakes you up or gives you perspective like sharing an elevator ride with a 4 year old balding boy with a needle in his arm and his Dad holding what I presume to be his chemo bag.

Now what was it I was bitching, moaning, and feeling down about? I forgot.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:50 PM [+]
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1 comments

Protestants in Bulgaria

Well cancer likes to spread, so why not sow the reformational/oncological seeds that have been so beneficial to Christian unity in the west, in the east too?

I received an email this morning from a gentlemen in Bulgaria who says he needs help in gathering resources because they have found themselves debating with Lutherans and other protestant missionaries. Apparently, these missionaries are actually claiming that St. James was not a christian, that he was a unbaptized Jew and so (I suppose) the Orthdoox cannot appeal to it in their debate on "Sola Fide."

I'd heard that in some older German Bibles you cannot find the book of St. James.

This is my old post that prompted the gentlemen to contact me.

I sent a few links to him and am going to go home tonight to run through some of my books at home. I am sending out a blogwide appeal to assist: if you know of some resources: particularly surrounding Luther's opinion of Jews and St. James, please post or reference them in the comments here.

I get really irritable hearing about protestant missionaries in traditionally Orthodox countries...c'mon guys can't you find a country that isn't already predominantly christian? Try the Middle East...don't worry, odds are probably in your favor that you won't get killed if you manage to get in.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:20 AM [+]
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9 comments

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Where Past meets Present
(or How to get people into your Church in order to "empower" them or Am I the only person who gets ill when a church looks and sounds more like a Tony Robbins convention than a temple of martyrs or I'm a judgmental prig on the road to hell.)

I recently heard a radio announcement for the Easter Production of a local church in which the "catch-phrase" is Where Past meets Present.


Now seriously folks, can any semi-cantankerous (I'd never admit to be fully cantankerous) Orthodox Christian convert leave such a statement uncommented upon?

We Orthodox really need to consider advertising...because we could have some kick-butt bumper-stinker quality phrases. Really we don't need a special "Easter Production" to come up with cool sounding buzz phrases and such. Every sunday at your local Orthodox Chruch, the past, the present, AND THE FUTURE are all introduced to one another. And you needn't suffer going to Kent for it either.
(Yeah so I am fully cantankerous today.)

But seriously, people really don't know how COOL Orthodoxy is...the problem is (besides that most people don't really know what cool is), the Orthodox Church really cannot say that "we are a non-denominational church that exists to meet the needs of you and your family." (see associated church website to above link) Unless you and your family are willing to first admit that you may not actually know what your needs are (because coming to Jesus with an expectation of what your needs are has typically and biblically backfired on people). And of course, the Orthodox Church isn't non-denominational (an oxymoron), it is pre-denominational (a bumper sticker waiting to happen!)

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:56 AM [+]
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0 comments

Look me up...

..if any of you out there are going to be at the Lenten Retreat hosted
by St. John the Forerunner Monastery on April 1st-3rd. Look for the fat,
shaved-headed, giant goateed guy looking confused.

My wife spent last weeknend there and returned with some really cool
experiences to share. One that I thought particularly encouraging was
when she asked to speak to the abbess and through a translator at one
point in the conversation was told not to worry too much about her
spiritual advancement in the art of prayer beause, after all, you are
still a "baby Orthodox."

I can deal with that title.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:20 AM [+]
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2 comments

Monday, March 21, 2005

3 Days now, no food or water

Terri continues to be starved. It's easy to shrug our shoulders at this case and its easy to remain ignorant about this case, but the more I look into it the more I find myself falling plainly on the side of life and Terri's parents.

Clifton has a good post on the matter.


I heard an interview with Terri's parents lawyer about how she had spoken with Terri (yes, spoken). The lawyer told Terri: This could all be over if you could just say "I want to live." And then the lawyer told us that Terri was clearly trying to say precisely that, managing only to say: "aye......whaaaaaaa"

Say what you want, the facts are that this woman is obviously trying to communicate and interact with people who are present with her. This, in my mind, is NOT a vegetable. I've never had an experience where my cauliflower was trying to talk to me or smile at me.

I've heard a lot of talk saying that Terri's cerebral cortex is "mush", but the fact of the matter is Terri's parents have the signatures of 50 neurologists who say that the "popularly perceived" diagnosis of Terri cannot have been made without certain test being performed (CAT scan among others) and Terri's husband has refused to allow such tests and furthermore has denied Terri any substintive form of therapy or treatment since 1991.

You can read and find out more HERE.

I find it interesting that Terri's maiden name is "Schindler." People are telling me that they don't think the government should interfere, that it is not the business of the federal government to intervene. But the government is already involved and you and I are involved because we are presently in the business of letting this woman's husband starve her to death. Something that proponents of starving Terri would not stand to see happen to even the likes of John Couey, I suppose because he can walk and talk? No, for my part, whether or not the Feds have a "legal" mandate doesn't matter...they have a moral one.

I am guessing Terri cannot survive much longer without water...maybe another day or two.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:39 AM [+]
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5 comments

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Triumph of the Icons

As my Orthodox readers well know, today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy. It is one of my favorite "HUZZAH for Orthodoxy" sort of days. Those non-Orthodox with a handful of religious knowledge usually are able to associate the Orthodox Church with the Icons she adores and so this sunday when we commemorate the 7th Ecumencial Council it is somewhat of a celebration of our own identity. But that's certainly not the end of the story (i.e. that Icons are merely calling card for the Orthodox)...there is more to icons than meets the eyes.

The fact that the feast of the Annunciation is coming up this week is a commentary in and of itself. God made visible.

But what I want to note today is a little bit of what - on the surface - may appear to be a tidbit of trivial history, but in actuality there are some fairly deep theological undertones. Ever notice that you NEVER seen an Orthodox Icon of Christ where he appears to be a lamb? Well, The 7th Ecumenical Council positively references Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council of 692, which itself had been rejected by Pope Sergius at the time - despite being universally received by the Patriarchs in the East. Canon 82 says the following:

In certain reproductions of venerable images, the Forerunner is pictured pointing to the Lamb with his finger. This representation was adopted as a symbol of grace. It was a hidden figure of that true Lamb who is Christ our God, shown to us according to the Law. Having thus welcomed these ancient figures and shadows as symbols of the truth transmitted to the Church, today we prefer grace and truth themselves, as a fulfillment of the Law. Therefore, in order to expose to the sight of all, at least with the help of painting, that which is perfect, we decree that henceforth Christ our God be represented in His human form and not in the ancient form of the lamb. We understand this to be the elevation of the humility of God the Word, and we are led to remembering His life in the flesh, His passion, His saving death and, thus, deliverance which took place for the world.

And though the West clearly accepted the 7th Ecumenical Council, they apparently paid little heed to the reference to this canon of the Quinisext Council which they rejected, for still to this day one can find numerous images of Christ as a lamb in western churches, but not so in the Orthodox Church.

And now you know the rest of the story.

A foundational basis for our "Theology of Icons" is wrapped up in the Incarnation.

God preserve the Holy Orthodox Church and her Icons.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:21 PM [+]
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1 comments

Friday, March 18, 2005

Summing up my mood...

Terri is starving, Jessica is dead, and Ivy League schools are doing studies trying to prove that abstinence is actually more of an STD risk than...ummmm..well not abstaining, I guess. What a profoundly stupid world we live in and the full extent of its stupidity is found and summarized in the fact that fashion designers earn money and esteem for this:



Someone give me a hug...I'm feeling a bit low.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:48 PM [+]
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5 comments

Angry and sad...

Just heard that the sicko pervert suspect they picked up in connection with the disappearance of 9 year old Jessica Lunsford has admitted he killed her. He apparently abducted her from her bedroom! (From her bedroom! And Michael Moore says we have no reason to be afraid and ought not to be concerned about leaving doors unlocked...wanna bet a grandmother is hating herself right now for failing to lock one of the doors that fateful night? Christ have mercy.) I was just telling coworkers today how sad our world is when for my children's own safety I have to teach them to be generally suspicious and distrustful of strangers.

I am beside myself over this. I follow these stories with a stupid sense of hope, despite the fact that we know how child abductions usually end up. I don't understand this evil...nobody can tell me that it is a difference of degrees compared to my own sin, there is an evil here than transcends anything I can fathom - even more perverse than a terrorist sawing off a head. Demonic posession perhaps? Such an intense hatred for humanity that it would fill someone with a desire to violate such innocence...demonic is all I can imagine.

I could sit here and let this anger and sadness ferment, but instead I am going to go and pray for Jessica and her family...and for us all. For the sicko...well sorry freak, I don't have it in me, you are on your own. God forgive me.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:06 PM [+]
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1 comments

Liberal Progressive Fun

As we begin to watch Terri Schiavo starve to death, Yale and Columbia University have this neat little study which has absolutely NOOOOOOOOOOOOO socio-political bias:

Virginity Pledges do not Reduce STD Risk: May Encourage High Risk Sexual Behavior


I simply do not have time to rip this steaming pile of a study to shreds, and really do I need to? Do I need to explain the worthlessness of this? Are we really going to now encourage our children to have sex for fear that if they abstain from that they will instead engage in "high risk sexual behavior." I mean what exactly does "virginity" mean anyway?

Speaking of high risk behavior, what on earth would the liberal ivy league elite have us teach our gay children if we want to discourage "high risk sexual behavior." Maybe something like this: why not try heterosexual behavior...its the original "safe sex!" Let's be honest folks, if these yahoos really gave a crap about high risk behavior they'd say something about homosexual acts. But they have an agenda to fulfill.

My friends are lucky they aren't around me now becuase I am on a roll folks, a tirade...yeeeehawww...there's no holdin me back!

Hey, I have an idea...here's a study Yale and Columbia can try: Does REAL (not just "pledged") virginity reduce the risk of STD's?

This is so stupid, I could vomit. I mean, how many times do I have to read liberally biased "studies" that try to claim that aspirations of holiness isn't "effective." And meanwhile, Terri is getting more and more hungry. What a sick world...telling us that WE are crazy while THEY effectively begin the process that will lead to the gassing of future special olympians.

Heal us Lord.

UPDATE: This study is being further amplified with this stupid tagline: "Abstinence pledgers risk STD's" ARGGGGGGGGGH!!!!!!!! Will they acquire the Hepatitis from the pen they use to sign the card at the Abstinence Rally? Or maybe the card itself has some random Herpes virus particles? NOOOOOO...THEY GET THE DISEASE FROM DOING SOMETHING THAT ISN'T REALLY ABSTINENCE AT ALL NOW IS IT?!?!??!

You have to stop and ask yourself: what is the point of this study? What are they trying to prove?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:51 PM [+]
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5 comments

Intuitive

Sometime...I'd say at least two months ago...my little carpet monkey Nicholas took it upon himself to do more than just cross himself while passing in front of the altar. Now, he'll fall to his knees and do a great prostration, sometimes holding it for an embarrassingly long time. Usually he'll get up smiling and proclaim to me while pointing to the floor: "I did that!"

Now, I cannot fathom what inspired him to start doing this. Yes, he has of course seen prostrations done (though not terribly recently when he started), but for some reason he just made the connection that the "specialness" of the altar makes it worthy of face-planting veneration...intuition of the holy, I suppose.

And while prostrations aren't technically supposed to be done on sunday mornings, do you think I am going to discourage him? Would Jesus?

Plant your head carpet monkey, plant away! We'll deal with advanced technicalities later.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:05 AM [+]
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1 comments

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Reminder...

The unexpected increase of leprechaun-based artwork coming home from school is a clear and concise indicator that we are today – obviously - celebrating a holy and ascetic bishop of Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.


As conversations bounce between celtic paganism and green beer, perhaps we ought to remind people that Saint Patrick enlightened Ireland, not inebriated.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:19 PM [+]
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Jesus fixes the clock on the Titanic

Last weekend, I watched the film version of Godspell. It was a curious experience because I can recall my parents (who were not terribly religious) owning the soundtrack on LP and so many of the songs were distantly familiar to me. In essence we are given an musical tour of many of Jesus' teachings and parables and I found it rather enjoyable...toe tapping away and singing the next day: "Preeeeeeeeeepare ye the way, of the Lord."

But the message of Jesus could not be entirely delivered to the hippies. And the failure of the attempt to make Jesus relevant to the needs of the hippies of the time was clearly seen by the fact that some of the most critical aspects of Jesus' life was missing in the play/film. So what are we to make of a Jesus who teaches love, peace, and joy...and then is killed. (end of story)Was Jesus really no more than an ancient Ghandi? So why bother trying to make Jesus (the self-proclaimed "Son of God") relevant, when in order to do so we must strip Him of His pronoun capitalization?

It's nothing new...we all try to conform Jesus to our own image. I do it, you do it, the "emerging church" does it, the radical left does it, the conservative right does it, we all do it. But one thing I truly cherish about Orthodoxy is that the Church really insists - on a very practical level (hello Lent!) that we, rather than God, need to become relevant. No one - whether it be pharisee or prostitutes ever came to Jesus and left unsurprised in some way or another. Oh we love to note Jesus slamming the officials and the leaders...I mean how cool is that...but Jesus wasn't anti-establishment, He was anti-sin wherever He saw it: "Go and sin no more."

And Jesus' compassion was expressed to all, but especially so to those who took those words to heart. Ahhh...Lent. Are we taking those words to heart...or conveniently forgetting those last words given to the woman caught in adultry?

Making Jesus relevant is dangerous business...like firing up an extra boiler despite the ice warnings. What we end up seeing is the "jesus" of Godspell playing shipwright Thomas Andrews, standing on a heavily slanted deck fixing the clock on a ship that has little time remaining before foundering. It speaks volumes to me.

Repent, for Kingdom of God is at hand...indeed. Stop trying to make God relevant, and become relevant.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:50 AM [+]
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Strange News


So imagine going to the Zoo and watching them feed the lions a live cow. Not exactly my idea of entertainment - in fact many times I have to turn off documentaries on TV because I feel so bad for the struggling wildebeest covered in occassionally less than efficient lions or worse yet even less efficient hyenas.

But this is the way of nature folks, and it strikes me as a little ironic that we want to turn these wild beasts into the little kittys we keep at home (which by the way are horrible monsters if you happen to be a smaller varment, because here you have an overfed hunter who cannot help but hunt and yet has precious little need to kill and devour quickly).

Besides, the lion will lay down with the lamb when PETA gets the legislation passed.

Anyway, the zookeeper expressed concern that witnessing such events might inspire violence in young people. Well that seems like a stretch to me, I think I'd be much more concerned about kids playing "Grand Theft Auto."

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:27 AM [+]
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Anger

Never correct someone with anger, but only with humility and sincere love. When you see anger ahead, forget about correcting for a moment. When peace has returned, then your powers of discernment are functioning properly and then you can speak beneficially. Since man was created rational and gentle, his is corrected far better with love and gentleness. An angry and irritable man is not accepted into the Kingdom of God even if he raises the dead. Therefore, suppress anger with all of your might, and you will find it weaker the next time.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Doubtfull that Elder Joseph had kids, but I'll try anyway.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:30 AM [+]
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Perfection

It's out there, ya know? I can see it, and furthermore I can see what it might be like if I were to "possess" it (or to be fully possessed by it - HIM), impossible though it may seem. In my mind sometimes I imagine my life unifed to perfection and I can envision my actions, my responses, and my thinking. Like phrases that sit on the tip of your tongue and yet cannot quite be spoken...or a dream in which despite your legs' motion you gain no ground.

It is a smile, when you want to scream in anger. It is silence when you have every "right" to defend yourself. It is understanding and accepting what many today cannot discern to be the difference between needs and wants. It is worrying more about the reality of who you are, than the perceptions others have of you. It is in so many simple things, that I would seem trite in mentioning them...to shallow for some, to "everyday", to mundane...but in my ever increasing agedness and in my ever increasing love for simple joys, I have come to believe that the real "trite" things in this world are only those absurdities (lamentably often highly valued)that lead us away from perfection. I believe that beautiful things said poorly and simply are far and away better than ugly things said poetically and subtly.

And so perfection may be found in happily changing lanes to let an overly anxious speeding driver go on his or her way - despite their gestures, or in letting others onto the bus before you, or in letting your coworkers listen to whatever THEY like on the radio, or in being anonymous, or in tickling your child into hysterics after they have been emotionally downtrodden by a classmate, or in writing a silly blogpost because something resonated in your heart while looking at old pictures in a photo album.

The old joke about rug burns on Orthodox Christians' foreheads is made real next week. May perfection also be found in a prostration? Orthodox aerobics, I've heard it called - for body and soul...the ongoing quest for perfection: to smile when you would normally scream. A fitting analogy, for when St. Andrew's Canon is finished with me I could scream for the pain in my thighs, but usually feel the paradoxical sense of bright sadness (a grieving smile?).

Have mercy on me O God....have mercy on me.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:52 PM [+]
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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Random Thoughts on Forgiveness

Christian virtues, oft absent when most needed, and are some of THE most difficult to swallow:

1. Opting not to defend yourself.
2. Chosing to consider the ways in which you are guilty, rather than the ways in which you are innocent. (or the other person is guilty). Truly I believe that there can never be true forgiveness without this.
3. Apologizing without expectation for merit.
4. Walking away, instead of ________________
5. Listening, when words of truth hurt.
6. Acknowledging and accepting an apology...honestly with little regard for THEIR honesty, perceived or otherwise.
7. Recognizing that we really have no foundation for safely harboring "righteous indignation." (aka "anger").

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:12 AM [+]
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Yes men...ahh, like a never ending comforter and nurturer when what I really need is a big kick in my ass

Talked recently with a post-doc who was lamenting the evil that seems to take hold of many tenured professors. Not a few, it seems, do all but set up a throne in their classroom and name themselves Jehovah. The frequency of unfathomable arrogance to be found among the academic elite got me thinking about how such monstrocities might evolve. It occurred to me that it possibly arises from continually having nobody ever disagree with you or call you to account. Those who happen to do so, well they usually simply vanish in some way or another - usually, but not always legally.I mean really, why bother ourselves with people who cannot understand us?

Under such circumstances where we are allowed to fester in our own sense of self-truth, deploring the world for not understanding and for persecuting us, we begin to rot. And once tenure is obtained (or some equivalent in another vein of existence), there is precious little hope - for at such time, no one may be so bold as to think they can teach us. Now at this point, the tenure must be returned to fires of mount doom in order to save us.

Sometimes I wonder if a tenured professor is all that different than being a parent and that the kids are sort of the thorn in our pristine and perfect and never incorrect sides. I believe there are many ways in which we may be like a tenured professor.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:01 AM [+]
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Monday, March 07, 2005

An open letter to California

Dear California,

Can we have our rain back please? No one has answered my “Missing-Reward” signs that I put up months ago, and so I was beginning to worry. But then I saw on the news that you all were stealing and keeping our rain down there, and it seems you are rather fed up with it. (Ahhh poetic justice!) I figured you might have forgotten whom you’d stolen it from and so I am sending this out to remind you. We would happily take it back for we find our mountains are suffering greatly without their deep blankets of white and our rivers and anglers will suffer greatly when there is precious little snowmelt for the salmon to swim in.

All that being said, I want to remind you Californians – especially those in the south – that most of you live in a desert. You have no use for all that water and try as you may to keep your lawns green, it simply isn’t natural. So please return the rain to the EVERGREEN state and return to your normal state of brownness – both in the ground and in the sky.

Thanks a lot and best wishes,
Washington

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:18 AM [+]
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Deserving Communion

My eldest daughter is at an age where she is teetering on the edge of adopting more "advanced" Orthodox practices, such as fasting completely before communion and going to regular confession. We - and by that I mean particularly my wife - have been talking to her about it and reading through a Russian children's book about confession (translated into English of course).

She voluntarily decided that she wanted to start skipping the small breakfast we typically offer our little ones on Sunday mornings, and has been doing great with it. But yesterday she had a REALLY tough time because she said that she hadn't eaten much dinner the night before and was terribly hungry.

I came into the living room after my shower to see her sheepishly eating some toast at the table. I asked, "So, you've decided not to take communion today?"

She cited to me her reasoning and then after I'd headed off to round up shoes for one of the kids or something like that, she started to cry. And I heard her say, "I don't deserve to take communion..."

Now I should have intervened right then and there, and frankly I am quite irked at myself for not doing so, but with the hecticness of sunday morning life in our house, I don't think that either my wife nor I were in a proper frame of mind. Later my wife and I discussed how we ought to approach the situation: since SHE made the choice to start fasting, should we "enforce" it and refuse to let her go to the Chalice?

It was during matins that I really think I gained some clarity, and I asked God to forgive me for my lack of it earlier, because frankly I think there was a serious problem with my daughter's thinking on the matter - and it was our fault. I keep hearing in my head: "Suffer the little children to come unto me...suffer the little children to come unto me..." As Matins wound down, I leaned over to my wife and explained what I thought was best and she agreed readily. And so, when Kelsey arrived from Church School to begin Liturgy with us, I took her outside and this is the jist of what I told her:

"God loves you so much, Kelsey. And you need to understand, honey that no one DERSERVES communion...not mommy, not daddy, not anyone - no matter if they fasted perfectly and said ALL their communion prayers. It is out of God's love that we are able to take communion. We fast and we say our prayers so that we are better prepared to take communion, but we don't cheat God when don't say our prayers or don't fast - we cheat OURSELVES out of an opportunity to practice discipline and to experience communion in a deeper way."

I don't want my kids to see Orthodox piety as a yoked forced upon them by their parents...for how easy it is to rebel against such things. Rather, they are tools...blessed tools that bring us into our religion more deeply, more sensuously (oh how I love the fact that we have a sensuous faith!), and more HONESTLY. For as we were reminded by the recent fast-free week: in and of themselves, these tools are worthless and that without God and His love they can be used for no good purpose. And nobody approaches the Chalice deserving it...and I am ashamed that I had not made that clearer to my daughter sooner. Lord have mercy!

Our talk ended with a hug and me apologizing. We then both went inside and approached communion together, with fear and love.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:05 AM [+]
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Friday, March 04, 2005

Romance and self-abnegation

A reader sent me a link to a wonderful article...REALLY wonderful!


Particularly this line:

...the family is a countervailing force in society. Public life is individualistic. It's oriented around goals like self-development, self-advancement and personal happiness. (This is, of course, even more true in America today than in the Russia of the 19th century.) The goal of family life, on the other hand, does not revolve around individual choices but around the unconditional union of souls. When we get married, and then when we have kids, we learn, sometimes traumatically, to say farewell to the world of me, me, me.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:20 AM [+]
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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

More Twilight Zone stuff...

After another strange round of exceptionally vivid dreams revolving around death last night (the third!), I am directed to THIS strange and intriguing article.

The sender, an agnostic at best, suggested to me (despite their own skepticism) that this may be "the basis for a new and better religion."

I replied:

Fascinating article.

It begs a question though - especially in light of your comment regarding a "new
and better religion"

What benefit would we gain from KNOWING that there is a "global consciousness"
unless it were tied to some common sense of morality? For instance, the notion
that we are intimately connected seems to toss out the window the adage that
what we do in the privacy of our own home is nobody's business. E.g. if someone
want's to view and "interact" with child pornography, does that in some way
polute the "global consciousness"?

How will this new religion determine when something polutes or not? And by what
standard do we say that it is a "better" religion?

Frankly, I find the article very exciting. The Christian faith has long held the
concept of our connectedness. Nothing we do alone is ever truly done alone.
Ripples in the pond, et al

The other thing that strikes me, in the face of my death dreams, is that any religion that does not address death as an enemy is like falling off a cliff and denying the role of gravity in your demise.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:54 AM [+]
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